on August 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Penny for your thoughts

SENECA — If at first you don’t succeed … may very well be the mantra chanted today when the Oconee County Infrastructure Committee meets in special session.

The group will decide whether there’s enough interest and support to pursue another referendum asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax in the November 2008 general election.

Revenue from the tax would go to fund important infrastructure projects and other capital improvements countywide.

Supporters of the sales-tax initiative took their case to the voters last November and failed with 56 percent casting a nay vote.

If a decision is made to test voters’ generosity again, it will come out of today’s meeting.

Key political figures in the county said Tuesday that the initiative is worth another try and that a positive result is possible if done right.

“The 1-cent tax can be used very wisely,” said County Council Chairman Marion Lyles. “I feel we need to get it out to the public to try to do it.”

Lyles said the consensus on the council is that the initiative is very much needed and that everyone is positive about it. The veteran councilman said he’s hopeful that a committee would be formed at today’s meeting that could assess the need for the 1-cent sales tax and do a test run.

“We still have a year and a half to get it out to the public,” Lyles added.

Seneca Mayor Dan Alexander agreed that the key to passing a 1-cent sales tax proposal is to make a convincing case to the public. He said one way of accomplishing the goal is by prioritizing and focusing on a few capital projects.

Alexander said he served 27 weeks on a committee in 2006 that took the message out to the public. The effort included organizing and attending town hall meetings.

“Sometimes many people came and sometimes only a few,” said Alexander. “I heard people say there were too many projects.”

Alexander said that if a decision is made to revive the tax, he would like to see a short list of projects that can be accomplished so that people can see results. He said such a strategy would be helpful in recruiting the public’s support in future undertakings.

Alexander added that no one should lose sight of the big picture — infrastructure in parts of the county is needed to promote economic development.

“Without infrastructure there, you’re limited on what you can do,” Alexander said.

Members of the Infrastructure Committee include county, municipal and state government officials, as well as representatives from power and telecommunications companies.

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? Last we knew: Oconee County voters killed the 1-cent sales tax initiative in 2006 that would have generated $53 million over seven years to fund capital improvement projects countywide. About 56 percent of voters rejected the proposal.

? The latest: Discussions are underway on whether to revive the 1-cent sales tax initiative and place it on the November 2008 ballot.

? What’s Next: The county’s Infrastructure Committee meets 1 p.m. today at the County Administrative Office Complex, 415 South Pine St., Walhalla to decide if there’s interest in pitching another sales tax initiative to the voters.